“Snow?” said my wife.
“Snow,” I said.
“You’re joking,” she said.
So I showed her the newspaper headline, which read: “Alabama Winter Storm Warning Issued: Up to 4 Inches Expected Tonight.”
“Snow in Alabama,” my wife said. “Have mercy.”
The paper went on to explain that a strong cold front was going to hit Birmingham on Friday, bringing a round of rain, possible storms and snow to central and northern Alabama.
And while I realize snow isn’t a big deal to most people in the continental U.S., to my wife and I this is an event which carries the same importance as, say, the installation of a new pope.
My wife texted everyone she knew.
We are from the Florida Panhandle. And Panhandle people like us have only seen snow a few times in our lives.
Back in 1977, for example, my uncle Tommy Lee reportedly saw “white stuff” falling in Okaloosa County, whereupon he called the sheriff’s office and reported that the unidentified substance was cold and flavorless, with no discernable psychoactive effects.
Sheriff’s deputies told him to remain calm, and whatever he did, not to touch the stuff. In a few moments, Uncle Tommy Lee was standing on his rooftop holding a large enamel mixing bowl over his head, catching snow and singing “Bringing in the Sheaves.” He slipped and fell. They buried him with his bowl.
Another time it snowed in December of 2003. I know this because my wife and I were married that same month. Our family was excited that we might see flurries on the day of our wedding. My cousin gave me snow chains as a wedding gift.
Technically, it snowed a few days after our wedding. But you couldn’t see the snow with your naked eye. In fact, the only people who actually saw the snow were Florida State research scientists who used a neutron microscope.
Then there was the year it snowed on Christmas morning in the Panhandle, back in 2004. A once-in-a-lifetime event for a native Floridian. This was nothing short of ethereal.
My wife and I were newlyweds. We crawled atop the roof of our doublewide and held each other tightly beneath the snowfall. Below us, our neighbors celebrated by sipping SOLO cups of Fireball whiskey and playing Skynyrd on their Camaro stereo.
That week, our frontpage read, “I’m Dreaming of a White County,” accompanied by a picture of our mayor wearing a Hawaiian shirt, holding a snow shovel triumphantly over his shoulder.
Snow in Birmingham. Have mercy.
At the supermarket today, everyone was talking about the upcoming blizzard. There was a moderate thrum of excitement in the air.
I was standing in the deli line when I met an elderly woman with white hair and skin like crêpe paper. Granny asked if I’d heard about the snow.
“Oh, I just love snow,” Granny said. “I remember the blizzard of ‘66, I was 23 years old when it hit Birmingham, the ground outside our carport was covered with eight inches.
“I remember I wrote a letter to my husband, he was stationed in Vietnam, I sent him a photograph of me standing in our yard, I was wearing a bikini.” Then she giggled. “I was so cold if I would have fallen, my bathing suit would have shattered.”
Another guy standing in line chimed in.
“Yeah, I remember that year. I was a little kid. School was canceled for a long time. I think some people actually died in that snowstorm.”
The employee slicing meat behind the deli counter said, “People did die. It was really bad. My daddy used to drive a bus for the City of Birmingham back in the ‘60s. He said that one time that year, the snow got so bad that cars in traffic were stuck on the roads. His bus had to pull over to let stranded people onboard.
“Daddy said people from nearby vehicles all crowded onto the bus just to keep warm. After a few minutes, the bus was crammed full of people from other cars, everyone started sharing their lunches, trying to distract themselves by singing songs until help finally came along.”
We all paused and smiled at the thought of strangers befriending one another, singing songs in the middle of a snowstorm.
“Those were different times,” said Granny, heaving a sigh. “Every day, I pray that people will be nice to each other like that, instead of all this fussing and fighting I see today.”
“Yeah,” said the guy in line.
“Yeah,” said the deli employee.
For a few moments we were silent. And it occurred to me that, at least within the confines of our little single-file deli line, Granny’s prayer had indeed come true.
Snow in Alabama.
Leigh R Amiot - March 12, 2022 7:56 am
It’s supposed to get down to 27 in Valdosta tonight! We’ve already had a freakish high of 90 in our meteorological spring. Menopausal weather I’ve heard it called! Raining tonight, a little windy, thought I heard some small pieces of hail. Looks like you’re in the zone of a bomb cyclone! Enjoy the snow! I’ve only seen it a few times in my life. Saw snowfall in Denver, Colorado once at daybreak, everything was so quiet, it was an awesome sight to a gal who has lived her entire life in a subtropical climate.
I love Granny’s prayer…we all should make that part of ours.
Dusty Bush - March 12, 2022 8:53 am
Rare events in the Deep South like a cold Snow storm in mid March make warm memories that one can clearly recall for many, many years. Enjoy, Jamie and Sean. I pray that you will see the beautiful white snow this weekend and it will remind you of the Snow White hair of your beloved Mother Mary and her eternal love for you two.
-Dusty Bush / Pearland, Texas
Virginia+Russell - March 12, 2022 10:48 am
If you break down a couple of your moving boxes they’ll make pretty good sleds.
James W Sturges - March 12, 2022 12:30 pm
I love your writing and until today had found no reason to criticize. But. “ … to my wife and I this is an event which carries….” To my wife and I? Your English prof would have asked you to test that construction with “To I.” And you would instantly seen the correct construction is “ … to my wife and me ….”
And as a native of Dothan, in regard to that snow, mercy me.
James W Sturges - March 12, 2022 12:32 pm
Ack. You would instantly *have seen^
thatcase - March 12, 2022 3:47 pm
Walter, Mrs. Brown and Ms. Fraser would be extremely proud of you!
thatcase - March 12, 2022 4:19 pm
Walter, Mrs. Brown and Ms. Fraser are proud of you!
Paul McCutchen - March 12, 2022 12:54 pm
I like the prayer also Leigh, I was thinking about my own Grandmother during snow storms in Arkansas. Then the phone rang and I realized my own Grandkids were calling me asking about the snow in Georgia. Funny how time flies.
Jennifer Barbosa - March 12, 2022 1:02 pm
I just started reading your posts and what a breath of fresh air you are! I’ve lived in Florida, a north suburb of Micky Mouse land since i was 2 yrs old, I’m 62 now and I’ve never seen snow besides a faint drizzle at 2am on the side of I95 in Connecticut back in 1985 on my way to visit my furure in-laws. This past January I was visiting my son who lives in north Alabama and he said, “mom come see”. Well, it was snowing pretty heavy and me and the kids were in it in all its glory. I recorded it for several minutes because I’ve never seen it snow like that before – it even made me start crying!
Te - March 12, 2022 1:14 pm
There’s so much snow can bring you. Snow ice cream!!! Oh my, a childhood delicacy!!. Snowman! How often do you get a chance to do that in the Panhandle? Dishpan rides down a hill. Nobody has sleds unless they just moved from up north. Southern snow is wet and heavy and brings down limbs, which could mean downed limbs, which could mean no electricity for a couple of dsys, which could mean no heat unless you heat with gas, in which case you’ll have all your neighbors camped out in your living room! And don’t forget to catch up on your laundry beforehand. And get your vehicles off the street if thats where you park them. Nobody in the South know how to drive in that mess, but they do insist on pretending, with predictsble results. Insurance cos. Hate snow in the South!! But hey, you’re in for a real treat! If it happens.
Charlotte Virginia McCraw - March 12, 2022 1:14 pm
While we are sharing snow memories . . it was March, 1968 . . 17 inches of heavy, white mush. I was 26. My car got stuck about a block from work, so I left my car and walked the rest of the way. Nobody stole my car. Co-workers were sweet as they listened to my tale of woe. Several of the men helped to extricate my vehicle. Yes, the world was or at least seemed nicer back then. Have mercy . . please.
Lin - March 12, 2022 1:18 pm
It’s snowing right now in Virginia where we live, blowing like all get out. Glad nobody in our family has to go out. We’re originally from Minnesota so we’ve seen it before! I kind of like a day to stay in and read or catch up on things like mending. Enjoy it for what it is, mother nature having her way.
Pat - March 12, 2022 1:37 pm
“….to my wife and ME…”
Susiebelle - March 12, 2022 1:52 pm
Remember from a few years ago the doctor in Birmingham who walked back to UAB to perform emergency surgery? Have mercy indeed!
Shelton A. - March 12, 2022 1:58 pm
Why does it take something that can potentially close roads, stop school, or cause power outages to let people be neighborly to each other. I am so sick and tired of folks who say they are Americans treat other Americans so badly. Right or left, red or blue, it doesn’t matter. The yelling and finger pointing goes on. But let there be some snow and people band together again. It breaks my heart because as soon as the snow is gone, people are back after each other yet again. *sigh*
Bob Hydrick - March 12, 2022 2:07 pm
I remember it snowing in Destin. My wife and I had dinner at Harbor Docks. The Independence Bowl was on the TV’s and it was snowing in Shreveport,. The announcers spent more time talking about the snow than the game. When we finished dinner and came back out in the parking lot, lo and behold, it was snowing in Destin.
Sharon on Southside - March 12, 2022 2:14 pm
I Love You Sean! And Granny, too!!!
Cathy M - March 12, 2022 2:19 pm
A welcome snow for you and Jaimie! We ordered it just for you two precious people. As to the professors comment above . Maybe it’s just me but I think it is very rude to correct someone in front of others. You may have a great command of the Written word but Sean has a large following so your correction was read by all of us. Sean probably does not give a rip but I am offended and you you need to go to charm school . Happy Saturday to all .
Sally - March 12, 2022 2:22 pm
Only 4 inches! That’s not bad at all. We have 10 ft drifts, just step of the trail and your knee to waist deep in! Get a life southerners. Come try the real north out. Have fun in the snow!!
Sue Adams - March 12, 2022 3:28 pm
What a way with words! Here in North Texas not much snow but we do have ice storms that shut down everything, schools, businesses, churches. We don’t know how to drive on ice! Thank you for starting my day, as usual.
Billy - March 12, 2022 3:35 pm
When I read your columns I never see any grammatical errors. I see your story, I see the wonderful people you describe, I am taken along on a nice trip each day! How on earth… grammar! I taught college kids and they also made errors, but my focus was on the content of their writings. Try to re-focus and enjoy the difference it will make!
Cheryl Newsome - March 12, 2022 3:43 pm
Here in my part of Birmingham, we got a mere smidgen. Still, it’s pretty. My yards look like iced oatmeal cookies and there’s something a bit surreal about seeing a pear tree blooming in a snowy yard. Hope you got a bit to enjoy, Sean!
Eddy - March 12, 2022 4:15 pm
March 1993, “The No Name Superstorm Of The Century”. I was driving to Pensacola from Gulfport, MS on the evening of Friday March 12, 1993. The weather had been warm that week as it was approaching Spring. Crossing the I-10 bridge over Mobile Bay the winds picked up tremendously and started rocking my car.To the north I could see intense greenish lightening. I didn’t know at the time I was just barely ahead of a history making cold front. The winds continued to increase until I reached Pensacola. The temperature steadily dropping. Saturday morning when I got up and looked outside, much to my surprise, snow! Several inches. The storm also spawned numerous tornadoes, too. It was huge, covering the eastern U.S. from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northeast! Google it.
Sandra - March 12, 2022 4:27 pm
In Georgia we called it a blizzard, it was snowing so hard I couldn’t see my neighbors house.
Patricia Gibson - March 12, 2022 4:51 pm
Hope you guys got some snow!!
Susan Kennedy - March 12, 2022 5:25 pm
The grammar police are missing the point, as usual. 🙄
AlaRedClayGirl - March 12, 2022 5:39 pm
Sean, you must learn that with any prediction of snow, ice, possible tornadoes, etc., you must immediately go to the grocery store and buy milk, bread, eggs (and beer) to be properly prepared. It does not matter if it’s only a 5% chance, that’s just what you do in North/Central Alabama. And while you are shopping, you’ll get to meet hundreds of your fellow citizens in the store doing the exact same thing. Oh, and by the way, there’s a saying in Alabama: If you don’t like the weather, stay around, it’ll be different tomorrow.
Linda Moon - March 12, 2022 5:52 pm
“Have mercy”. I’ve heard your wife say that many times, and I love hearing it from her. I also love snow and feel covered with joy when it’s here in Alabama. And prayers are good things, especially when they come true. I’m waiting now for one to come true and have no doubt that it will. Thank you to those who pray when mercy is needed….but don’t pray away my snow, please!
MAM - March 12, 2022 8:59 pm
Over here in southern New Mexico, we had an inch yesterday on the ground from overnight. When I woke up, the sky was blue and the trees and ground were covered in the white stuff. I went out in my pajamas, with a coat on top, to take photos before the bright sunshine melted it all, which it did by the afternoon. We do have a patch left on the north side of the house, but it will be gone in a day or two. Warmer temperatures incoming. Along with the dreaded windy season.
Beryl - March 13, 2022 12:10 am
I remember this storm in Tucson, ARIDZONA. This is FUNNY!!!!!
Steve McCaleb - March 13, 2022 2:01 am
Remember this in August when it’s 110* and the buzzards are flying low with canteens slung round they necks. Jeeze….it’s always something.
Greg P. - March 13, 2022 9:51 pm
Lived in B’ham my first 23 years. Still connected via family. The snow days are quite special. A rare and precious as rainbows without tornadoes. James Spann will soon be family member that you send Christmas cards.
Linda Oblak - March 16, 2022 1:28 am
Come on Sean!! Okaloosa County residents get at least 1 threat of snow each year!!!
Mary Hicks - March 16, 2022 1:44 am
Welcome to where we do get some snow, sometimes!! Blizzard of ’93 is emboldened in my mind!! The kids had a lot of fun!!🙋🤗💖❄
Julie Lane - March 16, 2022 12:35 pm
I’m from Kentucky. When I got married, I planned a destination wedding in Destin, Florida. It was awesome and nearly stress free because all I had to do was show up with my wedding party in our fancy clothes and the wedding planning company did the rest. We arrived in Destin on February 27th and immediately went to a meeting we had scheduled with the wedding company. They informed us that it was now forecasted to snow on the following day (our planned wedding day) and asked if we could get married that afternoon. We decided it would be better to get married that day so the RUSH to get ready began. We called all of our family and wedding party, most of whom were still en route, and told them to get there as quick as possible. I had to call the hair and nail salon where i had an appointment for the next day about the changes. They couldn’t fit me in on short notice so after searching around, I had to get my hair and nails done at Wal-Mart. They did a great job! Most everybody made it down to Destin in plenty of time except my best friend and matron of honor. The wedding planners said we would wait as long as possible but had to start the wedding at least an hour before sunset so we had time for pictures. My matron of honor arrived at the last possible moment, threw on her dress, and walked down the aisle. Our wedding was great and we were surrounded by family and friends. After the wedding we realized that we didn’t have anywhere to stay because out honeymoon suite was booked for the next day and that night we had each planned on staying with our families. Thankfully, my best friend decided to give up her hotel room for us to stay in and she stayed with my parents. All of that happened in the first 6 hours we were in Destin! It was very cold the next day and there were light snow flurries so we were glad we went ahead and got married!! Fun times in Florida!!
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - March 27, 2022 10:23 pm